“The Word Should”


How often do we say or hear others say, “I should” or perhaps, more frequently, “you should”. I have observed that the use of the word “should” often significantly impedes our well-being and ability to live an authentic and fulfilling life.  

To better illustrate my point, let’s look at the definition and how the word is frequently used or misused.  One of the commonly accepted definitions of should is; 1) to indicate an obligation, duty, or correctness or 2) to indicate probability or expectation.  

Despite its definition, sometimes those using the word “should” are well intentioned and do so to give advice, an opinion, or recommendation (sometimes unsolicited). Unfortunately, most people using the word “should” are oblivious to its true meaning and its potential for misuse and detrimental impact.

Let me give you two separate examples, one using the word “should not” and one using “should” that will help me further demonstrate how use of the word should contributes to living an inauthentic life and inhibits our true well-being and personal fulfillment.

Have you ever witnessed someone or have you yourself shared with another person, “I should not feel that way” or “you should not be sad,” etc. Although, perhaps, well-intentioned, how appropriate is this comment and what is the ultimate impact?  Whether intended or not, in reality, you are expressing, from your perspective, that it is not acceptable for one to feel a certain way and or suggesting one not accept their own reality at that time.  By no means am I suggesting we encourage ourselves or others to obsess about their feelings.  However, by not allowing ourselves to acknowledge what we are experiencing and process it in a naturally healthy manner, we force ourselves into believing that somehow magically we can make things better. Ultimately, how beneficial is it to suggest someone ignore reality or repress how they truly feel?  

How many times have you said or heard someone else say, “I should…” (fill in the blank)…”lose weight”, “finish my degree”, “stop smoking”, etc. What is immediately apparent when someone says “I should” is that they have not made a commitment to do something, at best, they have acknowledged merely what they “should do”. By stating, “I should” vs. “I will” we give ourselves a ready-made escape from commitment. I personally believe one of the vital elements of living a fulfilling life is through making and honoring appropriate commitments.   

How often have we heard the phrase “those are only words”?  As with all things, words can be used for good or bad.  Hopefully, I have given you some good food for thought regarding the use of the word “should”.  Words can be of immeasurable importance in helping us achieve an authentic and fulfilling life.

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